In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Islam commands us to honor our parents, to obey them, to respect their opinion, and to be kind in general to our family members.
One of the most important concepts for family life in Islam is known as “upholding family ties” (silat ar-rahim). The Quran and Sunnah contain many instructions for us to behave well with our family members, even if they are unbelievers. Scholars have compiled these into many works demonstrating the importance of strong family relations.
In fact, Allah will maintain relations with those who are good to their families and He will cut off those who sever relations with their families.
Abu Huraira, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: The Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ الْخَلْقَ حَتَّى إِذَا فَرَغَ مِنْهُمْ قَامَتْ الرَّحِمُ فَقَالَتْ هَذَا مَقَامُ الْعَائِذِ مِنْ الْقَطِيعَةِ قَالَ نَعَمْ أَمَا تَرْضَيْنَ أَنْ أَصِلَ مَنْ وَصَلَكِ وَأَقْطَعَ مَنْ قَطَعَكِ قَالَتْ بَلَى قَالَ فَذَاكِ لَكِ
Verily, Allah made the creation and when he finished, the womb said: In this place, I seek refuge in you from those who sever me. Allah said: Are you not pleased that I keep good relations with those who are good to you and I will cut off whoever severs relations with you? The womb said: Yes, my Lord. Allah said: Thus, you will have it.
Then, the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
اقْرَءُوا إِنْ شِئْتُمْ فَهَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِنْ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ أَنْ تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَتُقَطِّعُوا أَرْحَامَكُمْ
Recite the verse if you wish: Will you then, if you were given authority, spread corruption in the land and sever your family ties? (47:22)
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5641 5641, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Severing family relations is an act of “corruption” (fasad) that is the hallmark of the disobedient and sinful.
Healthy family ties begin with “righteousness towards parents” (birr al-walidayn). Allah has commanded us in many verses to be excellent to our parents and has indicated the importance of this deed by stating it in association with the pure worship of Allah alone.
وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
Worship Allah and associate nothing with him, and be good to parents.
Surat al-Nisa 4:36
And Allah said:
قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ ۖ أَلَّا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
Say: Come, I will recite what your Lord has made sacred to you. He commands that you do not associate anything with Him, and be good to your parents.
Surat al-An’am 6:151
Allah commands us not even to say “Uff!” to our parents, which is a very minor word of annoyance. Anything worse than that is obviously prohibited. Our respect for our parents should be impeccable in every circumstance, to the best of our ability.
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but him, and be good to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of annoyance and do not repel them, but rather speak to them a noble word. Lower to them the wing of humility for them, out of mercy, and say: My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up when I was small.
Surat al-Isra 17:23-24
We must be good to our parents even if they are unbelievers and command us to commit sins.
وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰ أَن تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۖ وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا ۖ وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ
If they strive to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them but accompany them in this world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me.
Surat Luqman 31:14-15
In other words, even if our parents wage jihad (jaahada) against us to make us worship idols, we should not obey them in this particular matter but we should still accompany them kindly and obey them in reasonable matters.
The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) demonstrated this behavior in the best way after some members of his family turned against him for preaching Islam. Despite their hostility, he maintained good relations with them to the best of his ability.
Amr ibn al-‘As, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, saying publicly and not secretly:
إِنَّ آلَ أَبِي لَيْسُوا بِأَوْلِيَائِي إِنَّمَا وَلِيِّيَ اللَّهُ وَصَالِحُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَكِنْ لَهُمْ رَحِمٌ أَبُلُّهَا بِبَلَاهَا يَعْنِي أَصِلُهَا بِصِلَتِهَا
Verily, the relatives of my father are not my allies. Verily, only Allah and the righteous believers are my allies. Yet, they have the bonds of kinship and I will uphold their family ties.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5644, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Upholding family ties does not mean simply returning good behavior when our family members are good to us. Rather, truly upholding family ties means to behave well with them no matter what they do to us.
Abdullah ibn Amr, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: The Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
لَيْسَ الْوَاصِلُ بِالْمُكَافِئِ وَلَكِنْ الْوَاصِلُ الَّذِي إِذَا قُطِعَتْ رَحِمُهُ وَصَلَهَا
The one who keep good relations with his family is not the one who reciprocates the good done to him. Rather, the one who keeps good relations with his family is the one who continues to be good to them despite having been cut off by them.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5645, Grade: Sahih
Our duties to our parents extend even after their death. One of the best ways to honor our parents when they are gone is by being kind to their friends.
Abdullah ibn Umar, RadhiAllahu Anhu, reported: The Messenger of Allah, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
أَبَرُّ الْبِرِّ أَنْ يَصِلَ الرَّجُلُ وُدَّ أَبِيهِ
The best act of righteousness is to maintain relations with a man loved by his father.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2552, Grade: Sahih